Cambrian: Opinion

Rain is never just rain when you’re living in Cambria’s backcountry

San Simeon Creek crossing near Cambria, California.
San Simeon Creek crossing near Cambria, California.

We are in the midst of a very rainy winter here on the Central Coast.

In the Santa Lucia Mountains in Cambria’s backcountry, rain is always a blessing. It raises the water table, provides an abundance of native grasses to feed the cattle and local wildlife and stimulates a profusion of wildflowers that stitch together a spring quilt of brilliant color on a green grass background that covers the earth for a few magical months.

So rain is never just rain.

In the backcountry, relentless, excessive rain can also mean trees down across the road, flooding at the creek crossings, dangerously slippery, muddy patches and rocks strewn across the road at the rock slide. Since San Simeon Creek Road is a dead-end road without any alternate routes to Highway 1 or any other road, these rain-related situations can sometimes be problematic for getting off the mountain.

So rain is never just rain.

Living in such a remote setting, rainy days can mean a real-life adventure getting down the literal slippery slope to town. Whenever we leave the house for work or errands, we know we may encounter obstacles that will either delay or prevent our journey. We’ve only had to turn back a handful of times over the years, mostly for downed trees or extreme flooding at our main creek crossing, but the possibility is always there. Living here is some version of a modern-day pioneer life, but at least we don’t have to drive to town in a buckboard. Travel in a four-wheel drive Jeep makes it all infinitely more doable.

A couple of winters ago, my husband John got stuck at the crossing, trying to get home from work. The rushing water coming from the hills above was so daunting that even he was unwilling to take a chance running the Jeep through the deep, roiling water. He had to turn around, head back to town and spend the night at a motel. I was stuck at home by myself with a broken foot, so I was less than thrilled with our remote lifestyle that day.

Since we have pets at home, it is never far from my mind when we go to town on iffy days that it might be far iffier by the time we head home. What if we can’t get home to take care of the anxiously waiting dogs and cats? Would they be angry or scared or just think we were being very bad parents?

Until we moved here, I never fully appreciated the sentiment, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.” I wonder if that hypothetical grandmother from another era ever encountered obstructions while trying to get to town. I suspect she did, and that the difficulties she faced were a lot more challenging than anything we might face today.

Near the end of any particularly long, wet winter, when I’m starting to lose my appreciation for our relentless but much needed rain, all I have to do is look out our windows to the green, wildflower-adorned hills to realize how very blessed we are to live in the middle of such a pristine setting. On the few days when the sun briefly peeks through the clouds, the sudden light makes our corner of the Central Coast glow with such vivid color that it can take my breath away.

Rain, both a blessing and the occasional inconvenience, is never just rain.

Mountain Musings is special to The Cambrian. Email Marcia Rhoades at